Dutch right wing populist politician Geert Wilders has denied racially insulting Moroccans and inciting racial hatred. At the end of his latest hate speech trial, he said the proceedings were "against freedom of speech."
Wilders, who leads the anti-immigration Freedom Party (PVV), remained unapologetic as his trial for alleged hate speech drew to a close on Wednesday.
The 53-year-old, who had shunned the hearing until it reached its final few days, attended the high-security courthouse near Amsterdam's Schiphol, where he addressed the three-judge bench.
The prosecution has charged Wilders with insulting a racial group and inciting racial hatred because of his comments, made at a 2014 rally, about Moroccans living in the Netherlands.
However Wilders claimed prosecutors, who he referred to as "puppets," and opposition politicians of directing a "political process" against him.
"The court is being abused to settle a political score," Wilders told the bench.
At the rally in question, Wilders had asked supporters whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands." After the crowd shouted back "Fewer! Fewer!" Wilders answered: "We're going to organize that."
Trial for free speech?
His 2014 statements were met with outrage, with thousands of complaints being made to police. However, Wilders contended that it was the principle of freedom of speech that was on trial.
"I am not a racist and my supporters are not racists either," he told the judges in Wednesday's proceedings. "I speak not only on my behalf. My voice is the voice of many. In the name of all those Dutch citizens I call on you to acquit me, acquit us."
A lawyer representing groups aggrieved by the comments, and also seeking compensation against Wilders, had said to the court earlier in the day that "only the law can protect minorities" in the Netherlands.
Prosecutors last week pressed for the court to impose a 5,000 euro ($5,300) fine on Wilders, who has said he will close mosques, ban Muslim immigrants and take the Netherlands out of the European Union, if voted into power at a general election in March next year.
A verdict is set to be delivered by the court on December 9, with the hearing itself ending on Friday. Wilders was cleared of similar charges in 2011.
rc/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)